Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is necessary

The recent motion in parliament condemning the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel has generated a controversial debate surrounding the legitimacy of BDS. Opponents such as Cole Forster writing in last week’s Gateway argue that the movement is anti-Semitic and an obstruction to peace. However, one has to contextualize BDS in the broader history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to truly understand its motivations rather than to superficially judge it as “insidious.”

After decades of occupation, settlements and policies reminiscent of South African apartheid (both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela themselves have drawn these comparisons to the Israeli occupation), Palestinians grew increasingly frustrated, and rightfully so.

Despite attempts at reconciliation through both formal and informal processes, such as the Oslo Accords and collaborations with Israeli peace activists, Palestinians saw no progress in a situation that only continued to oppress and steal their lands. In 2005, Palestinian NGOs officially gave a call to boycott Israel as a means to pressure the state into ending its apartheid policies. Opponents of BDS fail to recognize that it was the Palestinians themselves who called for global solidarity within its boycott campaign. BDS didn’t spring out of the void — it was a conscious decision made after decades of oppression.

Palestinian institutions, groups and individuals themselves called out for support against Israeli apartheid — a “label” that may seem insidious to some but is in fact the reality on the ground for Palestinians, both in Israel and in the territories, as they face systemic persecution on the basis of their identity.

In order to dismantle structures of oppression, one has to recognize, acknowledge and support the calls that the oppressed themselves make and within this case, BDS is a response to that call. The notion that Israel is a pluralistic, democratic state is one that is rejected by not only the Palestinians but other minorities such as African refugees, Bedouins and so on. One of the usual and inaccurate accusations towards the BDS movement is the issue of anti-Semitism, that BDS has a discriminatory focus on “Jewry.” Yet some of the most prominent groups and individuals advocating for BDS have been Jewish, such as Jewish Voice for Peace and academics such as Israeli historian Illan Pappé and Sarah Schulman. The BDS campaign focuses on the discriminatory and oppressive policies towards Palestinians used to supposedly protect “Jewish” nationality. However, Israel operates as a state and not as an official voice for the Jewish people as a whole.

Moreover, while opponents argue that BDS ultimately puts Palestinians out of jobs, this argument excuses the oppressive structures imposed upon the Palestinians. The issue of job security cannot be assumed without first removing the structures that impoverish Palestinians to begin with — which Palestinians argue is the Israeli occupation. To highlight Israel as an “oasis of democracy” in the Middle East legitimizes, undermines, and excuses the occupation, wars, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian peoples.

The BDS campaign brings to light the decades of Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinian peoples, and serves as a legitimate and serious form of protest against these continuing practices. Palestinian people have called upon solidarity groups to join this global movement and to deny the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle ultimately denies their oppression.


  1. The only thing BDS accomplishes is loss of jobs for hardworking families no matter whether Arab or Jew. The more pressure you put on companies the more everyday people lose their jobs. Second, it IS an anti-semitic movement because everyone who understands Israeli society understands that everyone who lives within it, no matter what their heritage, has the same rights.

    Second, in order for Israel to be an apartheid it has to fit several qualifications, which it doesn’t. Just repeating over and over that it’s apartheid doesn’t make it so. Arabs serve in the Knesset. That disqualifies your assertion on its face.

    If you really wanted to write something that’s current, maybe you should focus on the fact that Israel has no viable peace partner. Hamas and Fatah are two sides of the same coin. The only people oppressing Palestinians is the Palestinian leadership. You also don’t stab innocent civilians and expect peace at the same time.

  2. Then write your own fucking article. If the paper would publish this garbage, they’ll publish yours too.

  3. After painfully finished the reading of this garbage I wonder why would UofA official students newspaper would allow its publication. I hope that this is not a reflection of the general student body otherwise we have plenty to worry about for what and who comes out of this university. As for the author of the above nonsense, I did some research to see who would write such a thing and what came out pretty much explains it.
    “Prachi Mishra is a fourth year political science and psychology major. She is also a CSL Intern for this semester and a recovering procrastinator. She enjoys critical analysis of postcolonial discourse, contemporary feminist theories and food. You’ll most likely find her in the midst of philosophical debates or sleeping over her homework assignments. Writing blogs is new for her and she struggles with the creative process. But every now and then, a wonderful spark emerges.”

    If this description means to be funny, it isn’t. It just confirms that is a shame to leave important issues up to such individuals. I am sure that Uof A has talented students who can put together a real article worth of reading

  4. This author is so ignorant. First of all, you use some cheap tricks: trotting out Nelson Mandela and claiming that BDS has Jewish supporters (“I’m not racist I have Jewish friends”). Also, bringing up the issue of refugees and Bedouins, I’m not exactly sure how you feel about the state sponsored (or at least overlooked) killing of Muslims in India or the treatment of refugees in Europe but maybe you should look in the mirror instead of trying to string the nearest Jew up.

    Finally, both Lebanon and Syria are still technically at war with Israel. Why? Because Israel invaded and conquered their land? No, because since the Khartoum Resolution in 1967, before a single settlement was built, the Arab nations have been dedicated to No recognition of Israel, No negotiations, and No peace with Israel: the three No’s. Thankfully, Jordan and Egypt moved on from this position, but there are still those in the Arab world, including the ‘oppressed’ Gazans (who voted in Hamas) that would like to wipe the Jews out from Sea to River. You are supporting them and therefore you are supporting the genocide of the Jewish people.

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